Brazil’s Olympic Committee excludes futsal from their domestic youth games

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The COB (Acronym for Brazil’s Olympic Committee) announced the expansion of the Youth Games sports program, including four more Olympic disciplines: open water swimming, fencing, archery and triathlon. The Youth Games will take place from the 1st to the 16th of September in Ribeirão Preto, but the COB made the decision to not include futsal in the sports framework.

Before we talk about this and the reaction to the COB’s decision, we should explain more about the Youth Games, as there seems to be confusion online about what this means. Some people are tweeting that Brazil has pulled out of Youth Olympic futsal assuming this means they won’t defend their title in the Boys category in 2026 in Senegal.

The Youth Games in Brazil is an event organised by the Brazilian Olympic Committee. It offers support for Olympic sports through actions to assist the training of young athletes and sports professionals. Since the year 2000, the Games has annually brought together more than 4,500 athletes aged up to 17, from public and private schools across the country. More than 2 million students from 27 federative units (26 states and the Federal District) participate in the qualifying stages. Ribeirão Preto will be the first city in the state of São Paulo to host the event. Looking at other events, comparison numbers should see the competition attended by over six thousand people, including the Organizing Committee, directors, referees, coaches, doctors, journalists, volunteers and the athletes themselves.

The Youth Games also have an intense educational and cultural program, with various activities at the Community Center. It also brings positive impacts to the economy of the host city. More than 30,000 hotel beds are expected to be utilized during the event.

The Confederação Brasileira de Futsal (Brazilian Futsal Confederation), the body responsible for organizing events and representing futsal athletes in Brazil, stated in a BBC short documentary during the world cup in Brazil that they have data from the Brazilian government that Futsal is the country’s most popular sport even more so than football. On seeing this, Futsal Focus reached out to the CBF to find out what these figures were, they told us that Brazil has 12 million registered players, and that nearly 14% of Brazilians are interested in Futsal so this presents the opportunity to reach nearly 30 million people in the country if the sport had better marketing and promotion. So, this decision by the COB is surprising, especially when futsal has now replaced football at the Youth Olympics since 2018. However, their argument regards their wish to focus resources on sports that feature in the senior Olympics which futsal currently doesn’t.

The decision, however, despite the justifications of the COB has been met with anger from the Futsal community which is fighting to get futsal more recognition on the Olympic stage, a development step achieved by the Youth Olympics, but is still a goal at the senior level. One of Brazil’s most successful clubs Sorocaba Futsal/ Magnus Futsal released a statement rejecting the situation asking the COB to revisit this decision:

“One of the most popular sports in all of Brazil, the basis for the formation of young citizens and athletes, with a solid league and competitions that are a reference for high quality and performance, being outside the biggest student sporting event organized by the COB, lights a worrying alert in the entire heavy ball community” – they wrote in a note.

“We will not stop fighting for futsal and we want this decision to be reviewed by the COB urgently. No loss can be tolerated in a genuinely Brazilian sport that has become the face of Brazil abroad”, they added.

We reached out to Magnus Futsal’s President Fellipe Drommond to get more clarification because of the misunderstood tweets om Twitter at this time. We wanted to get more clarification about what this means for the Youth Olympics:

“The National Youth Games are very important for a sport’s credibility, visibility, and for the players who participate. It incentives them to work hard in their sport of choice and encourages them to stay within a sport they love because of the opportunities the sport can give them. This decision by the COB impacts the development of Futsal at the development grassroots level in our country. We have asked them (COB) to review this decision and the Brazilian government has asked them to do the same. So, hopefully, this decision will be reversed and not made again. This decision could affect our dream of futsal becoming an Olympic sport, Brazil is a powerful voice in this campaign to get futsal recognised at the senior level so for our own Olympic Committee to make this decision, what does that say to the powers that be when it comes to gaining recognition for our sport, it is only a negative and damaging decision and image for us and it must be reversed. This decision only ‘for now’ affects the sport in our domestic competition, there has been no statement by the COB that Brazil will not participate and defend our title at the Youth Olympics in Senegal in 2026.”

After the government became aware of the exclusion of futsal from the 2023 Youth Games, the Minister of Sport, Ana Moser, contacted the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) asking for information on the entity’s decision and released the following statement via the website:

“The news of the unilateral decision by the COB reached this Ministry through demonstrations by third parties on social networks, which we do not consider the appropriate way to communicate a fact of such relevance”, highlighted the minister in the document sent to the COB. Ana Moser also expressed her opposition to the decision-making.

The Ministry of Sport reported that it has received a large number of demonstrations against the measure on its social networks and asked that COB members be aware of the protests of athletes and social actors. The letter underscores the need for dialogue between the COB and the Ministry of Sports, as a competition of such importance is of public interest and cannot be considered merely a private event.

In the text of the document sent to COB, Minister Ana Moser warns that the measure will represent great harm to youth sports throughout Brazil since futsal is a sport widely practiced in schools, involving a huge number of practitioners, teachers, and school sports programs. “We emphasize that futsal was in the program of the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 and is in the program of the Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2026”, argued the minister.

“We consider the exclusion of this sport from the 2023 Youth Games program to be unjustifiable from any point of view and request the Brazilian Olympic Committee to officially inform this Ministry of the criteria adopted and the grounds for the decision to exclude futsal from the 2023 Youth Games.”

Youth Olympics

Tweets stating that Brazil will not take part in the Youth Olympics in 2026 is incorrect, currently, there has been no statement at all from the COB saying that they will not organise a futsal team to compete in 2026 Youth Olympics. We also hope to see them send a female team as well, as Brazil was not represented in this category in 2018  even though they had won the 2017 CONMEBOL Copa América Femenina de Futsal which was the 6th edition of the competition. Brazil and Colombia originally qualified, but Brazil chose to compete in the boys’ tournament, and Colombia chose to compete in rugby sevens. The spots were eventually reallocated to Bolivia and Chile.

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